It was elation for NSW Country has they ousted their Queensland equivalents 20-14 in the final pool game of the weekend, but just 24 hours later second-half struggles saw the girls in brown and gold fall 34-4 to NSW City to score a runners-up spot at the Women’s National Championships.
Shakiah Tungai was a key factor in the New South Wales versus Queensland, faux State of Origin clash on Saturday afternoon, running in a hat-trick after scoring two tries in the opening ten minutes.
A fourth try for speedster Rikeya Horne, as well as a conversion for Kirra Dibb and a penalty goal for Newcastle five-eighth Melanie Howard gave Country their 20-point score, beating out Queensland by just six points.
Their clash the following day in the battle for first in the Championships was a relatively lowscoring affair, with Kylie Hilder’s four-pointer putting Country just four points behind City. The metro side found their 8-4 lead off two tries for winger Tiana Penitani.
Veteran hooker Hilder’s try turned out to be the only time Country was to cross the line on Sunday afternoon, while City clocked up 26 more points in the second thirty minutes. Penitani rounded out her hat-trick, while Botille Vette-Welsh, Teina Clark, Kiana Takairangi, and Jillaroos star Maddie Studdon also scored. Studdon kicked three goals.
Country’s lineup in the final battle against City saw a changed lineup for nearly the first time in the tournament. After running out their key Newcastle recruits in similar lineups for their pool fixtures, a host of swaps were made against their NSW rivals.
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Hannah Southwell, who had played at lock for the tournament, moved to the centres, while Bobbi Law moved to the wing to make way. Mel Howard again appeared in the halves, while Hilder and Holli Wheeler remained in their hooker and second row spots.
Bec Young moved to the bench for the decider, while international star Simone Smith – who had made a major impact in the team’s opening games – remained in the reserves.
The seven Newcastle representatives now return to their NSW Women’s Premiership team, CRL Newcastle. Rick Stones’ team sits third after seven games, scoring five wins and recording just two defeats on the road against the North Sydney Bears, and the Mount Pritchard Mounties.
Stone has also added three new players to the squad ahead of the competitions return. Olivia Kernick, Caitlan Johnston, and Joeli Morris have all joined the tackle competition, just weeks after being named in the Women’s Under 18s State of Origin clash.
Newcastle faces the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Metricon High Performance Centre on Saturday, June 8. The Women’s State of Origin junior and senior matches will be played at North Sydney Oval on Friday, June 21.